11th Sep2010

Of Search and Social

by Dorothy

This morning (and now about a day ago because I sat on posting this), I came across this RWW article that got me thinking about certain things.

Americans spent more time socializing on Facebook than searching with Google for the first time in August, and Yahoo edged out the search giant in monthly traffic, according to new data from marketing research firm comScore.

Information is being created at an amazing speed. The folks over at Youtube quip that “every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.” But correspondingly, human capacity to process, comprehend and store this cannot possibly mirror this exponential growth. This capacity remains the same, and hopefully all that talk about how the internet is making us stupid is not true.

So what interests me about the RWW article was the intricacies of the nature of interactions on each site/platform as well.

Say Google really delivers the quick and streamlined search results (even before you finish typing..Google Instant anyone?). How does this affect their ad revenue model if it’s working so well and a user skips off(albeit happily) in the few seconds of interaction?

 

When I grow up, I want to be just like (you)?

With Facebook…

– Trying to be Yahoo with the newly rolled out Facebook Answers, which doesn’t seem to have the superior targeting engine that Facebook ads seems to have… because none of the questions have been particularly compelling enough to click on. Not sticky. It is also seemingly mostly perpetuated by USA centric discussions so the lack of local probably is another factor as well.

– Trying to be Foursquare with Facebook Places that nobody in this parts can access without a VPN (seriously..), which I would say has greatly affected my experience naturally.

I’m still logging into Facebook daily though.

I don’t use the Yahoo portal much honestly but their mail interface really works for me over Gmail. I suppose new ways to present old stats will always surface and I suppose part of this is that it’s interesting to have a sexy title that any other company could challenge and (gasp) beat Google at its game. In perspective, it’s really all about how you define “beat” as well. It depends on your purpose. Am I going to stop returning to Google because they can quickly direct me away (incidentally to exactly where I want to go)? No.

Here’s another perspective on the overall picture, since the Comscore data seems to focus largely on the USA  – Google still ranks tops on sites like Alexa, and there are whole lot of other related properties like Youtube, Blogger and etc so collectively it will be interesting to see how each entity fares. If Twitter would not fail whale so often, I wonder if they would move up as well. 

At any rate, I just came across this post here that claims people spend more time on Facebook than on Google‘s sites combined. You will notice I use the word “claims” because I still think everything is too subjective nowadays until there is a unified way to look at things across the board, one site’s claim is only as sound as you make it to be.

 

(Search)

On an aside, Search was one of the topics that happned to be discussed when Mel Carson from Microsoft Advertising came down from the UK. Had a nice cozy chat this week with a couple of other practitioners together with Mel…and interesting that he highlighted his background in SEM.

Search is important and I figure it shapes the way you learn, because in essence, you dictate what your perception on the topic is. Like the case of BP (something that was brought up a couple of weeks back in another setting, so I just wanted to hear opinions on this), and I’m still on the fence about how ethical, or “right” it is for brands to spend on search to have control over the results. And case in point- BP and the oil spill disaster.

During the conversation, Mel shared that it was something like 57 thousand to later 3.6 million that BP spent on Google Adwords. Which is an astonishing jump if you think about it. The stats are also up at this post from Adage.

BP’s increase underscores how important Google has become for reputation management, and in the battle for public opinion. In the wake of the spill, Google was a natural first stop for people seeking information, and BP bought up dozens of keywords associated with the disaster such as “oil spill,” “leak,” “top kill” and “live feed” as it vied for clicks with news stories, images of oiled wildlife and plaintiff attorneys trolling for clients.

“Google has become the remote control for the world; it’s the first stop, not TV,” said Will Margiloff, CEO of Innovation Interactive, a unit of Denstu. “More than any other media, that messaging is requested; people are seeking BP’s answers out as opposed to waiting to be told.”

Clearly there are implications for PR, Crisis and Reputation Management, since this is just another arsenal that can be utilized. Not one of the more discussed strategies, since most people are typically more focused on the tangible responses (Did the CEO apologize? Did they have a press release?..etc). It’s pretty much impossible to try and control social media (people are going to share what they want to anyway), but the public can’t read what they can’t find if you’re going to manipulate search results that way. So at least some of the traffic can be redirected that way.

And just to document the thoughts from another conversation, I think Greenpeace are actually one of the world’s most successful creative agencies or filmmakers or storytellers if you think about it. If I ran an agency I would be hiring someone like their creatives for projects. It is exceedingly difficult to defeat a machine powered by passion. Some of the content they produce, or the way they can mobilize the masses is just nothing short of amazing compared to some of the other “official” creative advertising.

The mind is an interesting thing. Sometimes just starting to think about a single topic can lead onto so much more. Short of titling all future blog posts “random thoughts of the day (date)” etc I haven’t quite found a way to address this when trying to consolidate certain thoughts.

This has been a good week of conversations, I seriously hope this continues!


Other previous Search/Social related posts

Social Media Sticky Behaviors – Google & Facebook

Search Portals v.s Social Networking Sites – A Fight for the Advertising Dollar (& our eyeballs)

20th Apr2010

Mobile Marketing Association Forum 2010: Singapore – An alternative Blog Post…

by Dorothy
Spent a couple of days last week at the #MMAF2010 and decided to do a different version of a blog post on the event! So here are my exceedingly Twitter centric slides below… Enjoy! 🙂
Just also wanted to give a very huge shoutout to the great team at Ricecomms for the invite & a wonderfully organized event, you can view their press releases here and here.
Really appreciated the making sure that we had power, internet ( all the essentials for Tweeting/Blogging/list of Tweeps/Speakers & what not….), standardized and clearly communicated #hashtag, and even Tweets that shared relevant links throughout the session.  Great stuff!
21st Feb2010

Social Media Sticky Behaviors – Google & Facebook

by Dorothy

One of the great things about digital is that it really helps to crystallize certain behaviors. This means visible, predictive intelligence online. One of the most sticky platforms still remains the ubiquitous Facebook, while Google is practically synonymous with search. While they both started off as very distinct entities, it seems that FB has evolved enough to actually start moving into the Search space.

Games

Ever contemplate disabling or deactivating your Facebook account? You know what is top of mind of users when they worry aloud in the FAQ section of FB about losing their data from Farmville (or any other FB game, really!). This, instead of losing all their friends and contacts. This was a few months ago, when Farmville concerns were right at the top of the discussion topics.

It will be interesting when the games and virtual goods segment in FB grows. The question then is how this will translate in markets like South Korea, where there is an entire virtual economy flourishing. It is also a market where other global players such as Myspace, Youtube and even Google have either had to bow out or simply be content with a smaller pie of the market share. Will FB finally have enough clout to go against the likes of Cyworld?

Another question is what happens when (and if?) app revenues surpass that of Facebook?

Zynga (creator of Farmville, Mafia Wars and etc) which has 230 million monthly active users was reported to have revenues of $200 million in 2009. The WSJ says Facebook revenues could hit $710 million in 2010, so there’s still some distance between the two figures. Still, if a fair percentage of return visits are due to the addictive FB games, it remains to be seen if the gap will narrow.

Facebook: Your One stop Internet Destination

You’ve seen the stats. Early 2009, Zuckerberg quipped the most overused quotable line about how “If Facebook were a country, it would be the eighth most populated in the world, just ahead of Japan, Russia and Nigeria.”

Then, he was talking about 150 million people. It is now 2010. Techcrunch reports that Facebook now has something along the lines of about 350 million registered users, with over 175 million of them logging in daily.

That’s a whole lot of visits, a whole lot of eyeballs, a whole lot of power.

Enough power to simply change the FB layout AGAIN without word or warning. I hated it, but have since gotten used to it, since there wasn’t anything much I could really do about it (deja vu?). Everyone seems to have gotten used to the fact that we are all experimental guinea pigs, sigh and get on with our lives. And we  still keep going back to the site.

And now, FB has its sights on Google, who apparently has 800 million visitors.

“According to Web measurement firm Compete Inc., Facebook has passed search-engine giant Google to become the top source for traffic to major portals like Yahoo and MSN, and is among the leaders for other types of sites.” – Source: SF Gate

You can also read more about how FB could kill Google here. The gist is that FB and Google are complementary for now (since FB is leading all those eyeballs to Google), at least, until unique visits for FB surpass that of Google. Microsoft last cut a (non exclusive)deal with FB in the last quarter of 2009 to include real time search results from status updates, but it remains unclear where FB may run with the search pie.

What are these sites to you?

Interestingly, at least for now, Google seems to resonate more with users in terms of the serious stuff – maps, translators, finance info, useful software like chrome/earth.. versus more of a slant towards entertainment and games on Facebook.

Many people still use the Google search bar as a place to type in URLs like Facebook.com (for reasons I can never fathom.. why they can’t type it directly into the actual URL bar is beyond me).

These results below do feature a bit on the importance of mobile as well – with the mobile related and FB lite mentions.

I’m still curious as to how all this will play out and how people will respond to all/any of these changes online… What will keep people coming back for repeat visits?  Also,  with all the talk on privacy and merging of identities on various platforms,  something to explore in future posts!

02nd Aug2009

Banking and Social Media #1 : Some thoughts

by Dorothy


It seems like an oxymoron to talk about banks and social media, given the former’s often authoritarian grip over their employees’ access to the web. However, all that looks set to change. Banks (or any other organization for that matter) are finding that the same level of control can’t be exercised over their consumers.


The Financial Times has published an excellent article about business and social technology (or social media). It postulates that organizations need more listening, watching, engaging with interested parties or being responsive to communities.

Banks surely recognize that they need to be where their consumers are. That was probably the premise of the introduction of Internet banking.

“Yet many banks, for example, still refuse to let customers post comments online because they fear what will be said.”
– The Financial Times


It used to be that organizations might be able to “own” the conversational platforms where netizens might find their comments (or complaints) censored on sites hosted by the organizations themselves. The point is, people are talking about you/your brand/organization/product/service whether you like it or not.


FB’s Lexicon gives some interesting data over the content of Facebook Walls over time. Looking at the period of January 2009 to current, it seems the total amount of mentions of DBS and HSBC are going in opposite directions.

Mentions of DBS are going up…

Picture 3

Recent events include:


Whereas, mentions of HSBC peaked around March 2009 and has dipped since, over the same period.

Picture 2

Events that happened in March 2009 that might have contributed to the increase in conversations.

Google Trends gives a much more nuanced analysis because it allows us to narrow down to geographical data.
Some comparisons from Google Trends, of search traffic from Singapore ( I am biased of course, August is the month of National Day 😉 ) on the various trends.

Picture 6

Picture 7

Picture 8

“Most organisations still think of their boundaries as very fixed – they don’t see the outside world as part of their organisation. They think it’s far too risky to break down their borders – but there is opportunity in blurring the boundary.” – The Financial Times


Between the Lexicon and Google Trends data, it shows people are not only talking about banks, they are actively searching for information on them. And this number has increased from year 2004, regardless of which bank we are looking at (DBS, HSBC, Citibank, in this case). I did try looking for a couple of other local banks, but there wasn’t quite enough data for Lexicon to pull any charts out. No conversations in itself, is possibly an indicator of other things.

Trust (me)
One would be hard pressed to find someone without an inherent skepticism about the banking industry after the global financial meltdown. Keeping silent is simply not acceptable to most consumers anymore, especially in this age where the internet affords so much transparency.

Your consumers are moving their conversations about you online. They are looking for information about you online. If you are not managing what the active netizens are saying, will the first thing that people find while keying in a search term be a negative post, or a positive one? If, a bank, you are not listening, how are you going to respond to something you’re not even aware of?

What is your take on this?
….More thoughts in the next post!

24th May2009

Web 2.0 & Gen Y: The Other Side of the Story

by Dorothy


Frankly, I’m fatigued by all this hype about Web2.0, and how it is being touted as being the ‘cure’ to everything except cancer. Coupled together with its initial links with the irreverence of Gen Y, I believe we are seeing trends of a different sort right now.

In a couple of weeks, I will be speaking at youth panel at Ad:Tech, moderated by the very awesome Graham Perkins. We talked about how it would be interesting if we could carry on a conversation without using some words like Facebook, Gen Y, Social Media, and how everyone and their pet cat is on Twitter. Would this little alternative game of Taboo be even possible, the way people are throwing these terms around lately?

Seriously, at the heart of it all, is communication, good old word of mouth, but through a new medium – the digital channel. It is less about trying to pigeon hole all this as merely a fad or something for “youths”, which is the natural inclination.

I am partially convinced that ironically, most of what we believe we perceive of this digital movement is shaped by the traditional media, dying or not.

A couple of ‘myths’ that are becoming old…

#1. “No one watches TV, anymore.”

But what would you define as TV? The last I checked, a little site called YouTube was garnering a healthy number of hits (though not making much money), as so was Hulu.com (last year they were touted to surpass Youtube in profits in 2009). I wish I wouldn’t encounter so much of the US copyright restrictions where TV viewing oneline is concerned. Nevertheless, looks like the lucky folks over in the UK will get some of the action from Hulu and UK TV shows on Youtube soon.

What they really mean is the weakening popularity of sitting in front of the classical definition of a TV then …and the old channels, but most of us are watching shows and content off our mobile devices, off our laptop and computer screens, and then some. In other words, people are still watching, just on alternative screens, and in fact, for longer hours since mobile allows considerable freedom.

Nielsen Wire reports that Americans Watching More TV Than Ever; Web and Mobile Video Up too.


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04th Apr2009

Search Portals v.s Social Networking Sites – A Fight for the Advertising Dollar (& our eyeballs)

by Dorothy

Social Networking sites have gone mainstream, with news of how people are spending more time on SNS than their email, and how Facebook is sending more traffic than Google to some sites.

However, if it is true that there is going to be an expansion of the available domain names, (think .burger, .cola and so on) search is probably going to come back in a big way. It seems rather counterintuitive to introduce such a system on the grounds that we are running out of domain names to register under the current .com .net extensions. There is already a list of other generic top-level domains such as .edu, .info, .jobs, .gov, .travel for example, not counting the country extensions like .uk, .ca, etc.

I cannot imagine having to go manually go through all the possible extensions if I am looking for a particular website, so I’m probably going to head straight for a search giant like Google instead of trying my luck (and wasting my time) with the extension guessing.

On the flip side of the coin…..

here is what was happening last year, when it was predicted that the advertising dollar would shift from SNS and portals.

Portals, Social Networks Lose Share in Razorfish Ad-Spending Study
Digital Shop Says Clients Shifted Dollars to Search, Ad Networks in 2008

“There were a few surprises when digging into the various verticals where Razorfish spent its dollars. Spending on community sites, which include social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, actually went down to 16%, from 19% the year before.Spending on entertainment sites was way up in 2008, to 23% of share from 18%, for two reasons: First, Razorfish finds that people in leisure environments are more open to advertising and the ads appear to convert better, and second, there were many new premium video sites where advertisers could spend their dollars. Said Ms. Baehr: “Hulu didn’t really exist for us in 2007.”



Right now in 2009, FB might be bringing and directing more traffic than Google to certain sites, but in general, I think it remains to be seen how this will play out. This issue is raised here in this article “Is Facebook’s Rise a boon for Google?” as well.

Personally, I am a triffle annoyed at the multitude of advertisements, repackaged as “suggestions”, in the new Facebook layout. FB is trying to be clever in placing your friends’ updates on the homepage on the right, training your eye to tune into the right sidebar area, so that perhaps you’ll make it a habit to glance through on your own profile page, where the Suggestions are. It’s not working. Too much clutter, and I’m on advertisement block out autopilot viewing mode.

I would rather go with Google’s interpretation of suggestions – sites that I actually am looking for, so that I’m getting help for my results even before the typing of the search term is completed. Talk about reading my mind.

FB needs to clean up their act and clean up their interface. It only takes a little nudge (and perhaps a great new platform that takes its users into account) to spark off a mass migration. This is the potential reverse social network effect looming. Then again, maybe FB shouldn’t listen to anyone, since they have never done so, and some good might come out of that.

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22nd Mar2009

Avatars: Virtual environments & Liquid Identities

by Dorothy

For a psychology module I am doing, I have spent the last couple of weeks trawling through an insane number of academic journals and research on computer mediated communication (CMC), in particular, focusing on Avatars. Lots of very interesting and recent research on the topic!

For a brief introduction, CMC can be both fully text-based (MIRC or Internet Relay Chat), graphic avatar-based, or a mixture of both.

Avatars can be both static (photographs/still images in chat programs like MSN) or dynamic (2D/3D virtual characters like in games or Second Life).

The general trend of thought during the early days of the Internet was that it allowed for a certain amount of anonymity so that people could become “someone else”. Interestingly, the research shows that people are likely to pick or modify Avatars to be “like” themselves, in terms of gender and type (aka human), which might extend to picking avatars that have other characteristics that are closely matched to their own, e.g hobbies, hair colour, race, personality and dressing.

In a nutshell, avatars allow one to maintain a sense of privacy (without divulging your true identity), and yet let you have complete control over the expression of your online identity. This expression is almost complete when you think about the level of control over your physique, features like eye colour, hair, lips and nose, right down to the length and size of your limbs in virtual worlds like Second Life.

Some cool Avatar facts!

  • The selection of Avatars is context dependent. Males have been known to select a female avatar to represent themselves in online gaming spaces because they find that they receive more help and hints from other players. They also receive more attention as a “girl”.
  • This probably means that the same person could choose very different kinds of avatars in different online spaces to represent themselves. e.g on dating sites, work related sites, gaming sites and so on.
  • Anthropomorphic (human-like) avatars were perceived to be more credible.
  • Participants strongly preferred avatars that were both human and of the same gender as themselves. Only a small percentage of subjects preferred androgynous avatars.
  • Choices choices choices (in terms of character design): Some studies report that given entirely pre-created avatars, and allowing people to mix and match their avatars, people were more likely to take the time to customize their own avatars. They hardly opted to pick the lazy way out and just select the “default” characters. (Cheng, Farnham, & Stone, 2002; Taylor, 2002)
  • There is even a Declaration of the Rights of Avatar, by Raph Koster. ‘‘Foremost among these rights is the right
    to be treated as people and not as disembodied, meaningless, soulless puppets. Inherent in this right are therefore the natural and inalienable rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression’’. Far out!

On that note, I’m missing Google’s Lively as it is. Walk through my exploration of that here!

Everyone has their days… when they have no idea how to control their avatars, and you drive yourself up the wall, literally.

And this goes for default sitting positions too… (why they programed it as such, I can never fanthom)

Pimp my Lively home! Before v.s After

I guess this comic pretty much sums up Avatars on the Internet! On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog

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